Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Special Needs and Gifted?

I have two amazing boys diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  As if that isn’t already enough to deal with on a day-by-day basis, one of them might actually be considered twice exceptional.  What the heck do I mean by “twice exceptional?” Well, what happens if your special needs child also exhibits traits of being academically gifted? You get twice exceptional. I don’t know about you, but simply getting a solid IEP in place that helps my kids get through every day is a big enough task. How could I make things even more complicated for his education? I suppose I could apply for my son to enter the highly capable program!
I’m doing this right now for my oldest son, but getting to this decision has not been easy. If he didn’t have the social and communication deficits that come with autism, applying for the program would be a no-brainer. He’s uber smart! This kid basically taught himself to read without any help from me or his dad. He has been finding patterns in numbers for a very long time and has a keen ability to memorize.  Based upon these traits, I suspect that he’ll either find a career in banking, computer code writing, or perhaps card counting!
My hesitation comes from the areas where he continues to struggle. Not only do we worry about his social and communication skills, he also has difficulty with abstract thought and creativity. But, in a specialized setting like the program our school district offers, maybe he can be challenged in a positive way so that his thought process can be stretched. Kids on the spectrum can be so rigid at times, and often they cannot see something from another person’s point of view. Any improvement in this area would be welcomed.
My son is in a regular classroom with some pull-outs, and he seems to be thriving. He loves competition, and will typically finish his work first in his classroom. When he is just sitting around waiting for the rest of the class to catch up to him, this free time can easily turn into opportunities for bad behavior. By having more of a challenge, I think it would eliminate some of the desire to seek negative attention. Besides, what better chance will he have to showcase his competitive spirit than in a group of gifted peers? I imagine that he would no longer be the smartest one in the room. That fact alone could help him learn how to lose gracefully and also how to support your friends, even if they are better at something than you are. 
But, this potential change in his academic curriculum doesn’t come without reservations. I worry about how he will function in a group of smart kids when he has some obvious awkward traits that may not be fully understood or appreciated. I would hate for this to be an opportunity for a more sophisticated level of bullying. Since he would bus to a different school once a week, I worry about integrating a new routine. If you are a mom to a child with autism, you know all about transitional issues and how it can take a while to get back into a groove after a major change.
Luckily, I have the support of my husband and my son’s teachers and therapists as we venture down this path. I have no idea if he will be accepted into the program or not, but despite the worry, I think I’m making the right choice for him. Only time will tell.

Uniquely Gifted : Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice Exceptional Student (An Avocus Advocacy in Education Title)

Twice-Exceptional and Special Populations of Gifted Students (Essential Readings in Gifted Education Series)
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